What makes the job of being a parent so exhausting for so many of us? We love our children deeply, we cherish the connection and moments of joy that come from our special and unique families. Yet our children can push our buttons, frustrate us, and bring us to a level of anger that is often surprising and guilt producing. I believe much of this comes from our unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of our children. How do we better align our expectations with reality? This is a tall order! Here are some reminders that might help in those moments of parenting burn-out:
- Children need to constantly test limits and boundaries in order to learn and grow. Their rude, or defiant, or generally unpleasant behavior is not because you are a bad parent. Remind yourself that they are doing their job—and yours is to be firm and stay calm when they are not!
- Children are bottomless wells when it come to attention—and will engage in any behavior necessary to get your attention when they feel disconnected. Find small moments to give undivided attention each day, and provide opportunities for them to be helpful and to feel competent.
- Children do not like to be told what to do, and would rather play than do just about anything else. Create routines that make their lives very predictable, so that completing tasks becomes rote behavior, and gives them a sense of independence and accomplishment.
- Parents have lots to do, much to worry about, and many of us are feeling highly anxious about the future of our communities and our country. Put away your technology after work (at least until the kids are in bed). Take vacations from news and social media, exercise, spend time outdoors and with friends, so that you model healthy living for your children.
- Most importantly, remind yourself on a daily basis that you are a “good-enough” parent. Your children will make lots of mistakes and so will you. When you find yourself in negative patterns and endlessly recurring hassles, or you are feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenthood, seek support and guidance from Parents Place or other resources that might be available. This is a gift that you and your family deserve, and will increase your enjoyment of daily life immeasurably.
Karen Friedland-Brown, MA, is the Director of Parents Place on the Peninsula.
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